Solidarity and Camaraderie on the Cleansing Strike Picket Lines

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Conter reports from the cleansing workers strike picket lines in Polmadie, Glasgow. We urge readers to join solidarity action with the strikes.

Striking Glasgow cleansing workers and their supporters have taken to picket lines around Glasgow in their fight over pay.

At the Polmadie picket line on Tuesday morning (2 November), strikers were joined by workers from numerous unions, as well as local residents, and members of the tenants’ union Living Rent.

Strikers told Conter that their decision to strike was the product of frustration with Cosla local government bosses, who they said offered a “derisory” pay deal in recent days. Cosla offered a 5.8% rise to workers earning under £25,000 per year, with inflation projected to exceed 5% by next summer.

Grievances have been building for years. Steven Killen, who works in recycling at the Polmadie plant told Conter: “We’ve been treated like shit. I’ve been working for 10 years in there. We don’t even get a thanks for what we do.”

Cosla’s offer was “terrible – not up to much at all”, he said.

Join the picket line at Western Depot, 7am Wednesday 3rd November – 40 Kelvinhaugh St, Glasgow G3 8PA. Follow GMB Glasgow for updates on the solidarity campaign.

“We’ve had no respect at all off the city council, that’s been going on for years.”

He said that he was heartened by the support the strike had attracted from other unions and campaigners: “Aye it’s good, the more the merrier. It’s nice to be supported, to see people coming down here.”

Another striker, John O’Connor, protested the low pay rise offered by Cosla, at a time when inflation was eating into wages.

He said: “There was a derisory offer of £800. Then Cosla offered a further £50 – which equates to about 97p a week more. A lot of people were disheartened by the pay offer.”

He said that the mood of the workforce was “upbeat”, and that solidarity from the public helped: “Yesterday and today shows you the mood that’s around Glasgow.”

“Members of the public have been excellent. It’s been excellent since the start of the pandemic.”

Stuart Graham, of Glasgow City Unison said: “I came down today to support this strike, first of all for working class solidarity.”

He also said that the strike could draw together the issues of workers’ rights and the environment during COP26.

“We’ve got the ability to draw the workers’ movement and the climate movement closer together to show that where possible workers will take action for climate justice. It’s the same system that exploits workers for profit and the natural world for profit.”

Environmental campaigners joined the picket at Polmadie.

Tenants from nearby Govanhill have been engaged in joint campaigns with the cleansing workers, demanding the restoration of services cut over years of austerity.

Gloria from Living Rent Govanhill told Conter: “Cleansing issues in this city affect tenants all over the city.

We’ve come down to show our solidarity and unconditional support for their demands.”

She said city residents should blame employers, rather than workers for the state of the city: “Because we’ve been campaigning alongside the cleansing workers, we see that there are issues around pay, conditions and resources – the basic services that the city council should be providing.”

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